PDA

View Full Version : Tips for playing a soulless character



Madeiner
2016-06-09, 06:47 AM
Hi,

one character in my session died long ago, and was raised as an undead. Now he was given life again by a god, but he's at risk of losing it again soon, again turning into an undead.
If he does, i want it to be different this time.
I was considering that he should become a souless, having sold his soul many times, on this new death his soul will be lost and he will exist without one.

However, i don't really have a clue how he (and i) should roleplay that convincingly.
What does being without a soul mean?

I was thinking maybe most creatures, especially extraplanar ones, would behave differently around him. Maybe they can't perceive him at all, or just as a ghost. Or something like that.

Can you guys think of something else?

Millstone85
2016-06-09, 07:00 AM
What does being without a soul mean?* You can try to resist the pull of evil but you can't win. You lost your free will with your soul.
* Everything feels dull and empty, like you are surviving but not actually experiencing life.
* If you die, you are dust. The part of you that could move unto the afterlife, or haunt the living as a ghost, is already gone on its own merry way. You are just a body and a mind, truly mortal.

Pick one or two or all three.

Telonius
2016-06-09, 07:50 AM
Are you familiar with the show Supernatural? They played around with that concept in one of the early seasons. (One of the two main characters had died, but returned back without a soul). They tried to play it out as kind of a Sociopath/Nihilist Plus thing, where he basically lost all feelings of love and attachment to anyone or anything.

kraftcheese
2016-06-09, 08:31 AM
Well, I feel like paladin/Cleric/other divine powers should be out of the characters reach because the gods aren't particularly interested in a mortal who can't become their petitioner in the afterlife/can't interface with them via their soul/or the god can't perceive them properly because of lack of soul.

Also maybe it could be something like being a new person; you're not an empty shell or amoral, etc because of your lack of soul, but you feel different to who you were when you had a soul.

The soul is gone, and you've been left here, simply a body and mind with memories that feel like someone else's; you're a being birthed anew, a clean slate with the capacity for both good and evil.

Mark Hall
2016-06-09, 10:38 AM
Play them like an elf, as elves don't have souls.*


*True fact. 1e elves do not have souls.

Thrudd
2016-06-09, 11:41 AM
Hi,

one character in my session died long ago, and was raised as an undead. Now he was given life again by a god, but he's at risk of losing it again soon, again turning into an undead.
If he does, i want it to be different this time.
I was considering that he should become a souless, having sold his soul many times, on this new death his soul will be lost and he will exist without one.

However, i don't really have a clue how he (and i) should roleplay that convincingly.
What does being without a soul mean?

I was thinking maybe most creatures, especially extraplanar ones, would behave differently around him. Maybe they can't perceive him at all, or just as a ghost. Or something like that.

Can you guys think of something else?

He can no longer bargain with extraplanar beings. They'll see his soul is already claimed/gone and refuse to deal with him. Somethong similar happened to Dr. Strange in a recent comic. He went to sell his entire soul for ultimate power to save the universe, but the being said he was already missing too much of his soul (unbeknownst to him) and wouldn't give him anything.

Maybe healing magic won't work on him, especially if he's literally undead. He's like a sentient automaton or construct. He definately can't use any kind of divine magic, himself.

As for roleplaying, that's up to you and what having a soul even means in your world. Maybe nothing changes in how he acts.

OldTrees1
2016-06-09, 11:58 AM
The soul is the afterlife so sans soul is sans afterlife. Knowing only oblivion awaits might affect personality. Even the lich's method to escape oblivion is lost to this character.

The soul is also the controller. Without the soul the body is an empty shell that can be possessed. This also implies something of the personality departed with the soul since only the body's nature would remain. I don't know what this would look like but it might be as follows: Imagine your mind no longer initiates action but rather merely responds to situations. You would not get food knowing you would be hungry, instead when you get hungry you go and find food. Likewise there would be nothing holding back your cravings. When hungry you will eat until sated regardless of if that much is bad for you. Obviously these effects would affect other areas than mere hunger.

Demidos
2016-06-09, 01:08 PM
On the other hand, ultimate assassin -- can't be detected by any sort of extraplanar entities or divine magic. Just sayin...:smallbiggrin:

Regitnui
2016-06-09, 01:55 PM
If there's a personality left, it'd likely be nigh-emotionless and exceedingly literal; any statement, exclamation, question or command is taken exactly as the words say, with no understanding of metaphor. E.g. "It's raining cats and dogs outside." "No, just water." / "It's time for you to lie down and bleed to death!" *lies down and slits own throat."

Temperjoke
2016-06-09, 02:04 PM
There was an episode of The Fairly Oddparents where Timmy wished his emotions away, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPew85TjOIc , I'd imagine that not having a soul would be like that, although, depending on what the soul represents in your game you could be left as nothing but a mindless zombie without one.

Mastikator
2016-06-09, 02:38 PM
Are you familiar with the show Supernatural? They played around with that concept in one of the early seasons. (One of the two main characters had died, but returned back without a soul). They tried to play it out as kind of a Sociopath/Nihilist Plus thing, where he basically lost all feelings of love and attachment to anyone or anything.

Dean described Sam as being the "Terminator". Basically someone who views morals as a math question.

Madeiner
2016-06-09, 02:46 PM
Thanks guys :)
Lots of good suggestions here.

Mechanically, i can use these as an immunity to fear, but also impossible to receive benefits of morale effects.
On the divine spellcasting part, i think i am covered. The character is a cleric that recently lost his powers. We have decided that he will try to steal powers from the gods now (we took the flavor from the Ur-priest), since he's had many gods and most of them betrayed or abandoned him. That is a despicable act... but he's with no soul, so.

All of these, however, are up to the player. I will suggest these tips to him, but i'll have no power over what he roleplays.
I'd also like something i, as the dm, can enforce.

Anything you can suggest here, in the sense of how he is affected by the world, or how other people might react to him?

Regitnui
2016-06-09, 02:56 PM
If he's largely passive and disinterested, people might start treating him like an unusually well-made flesh golem or other construct.

Slipperychicken
2016-06-09, 03:22 PM
Hi,

one character in my session died long ago, and was raised as an undead. Now he was given life again by a god, but he's at risk of losing it again soon, again turning into an undead.
If he does, i want it to be different this time.
I was considering that he should become a souless, having sold his soul many times, on this new death his soul will be lost and he will exist without one.

However, i don't really have a clue how he (and i) should roleplay that convincingly.
What does being without a soul mean?

I was thinking maybe most creatures, especially extraplanar ones, would behave differently around him. Maybe they can't perceive him at all, or just as a ghost. Or something like that.

Can you guys think of something else?

Here's how I'd do it:

Speak in monotone all the time
Have dead eyes that look at nothing in particular.
Look bored, exhausted, and vaguely depressed all the time. Hunches over, looks sluggish, doesn't stand tall.
Rarely makes decisions on his own initiative, go along with whatever the party tells him to do, but otherwise spends most of his time inactive unless prompted
Literally incapable of enjoyment or pleasure. Can feel pain technically, but it doesn't elicit an emotional reaction. Eats to exist, does his daily routine, but nothing beyond that.
May do his old hobbies out of habit, but it's obvious to anyone looking that he's not putting his heart into it like he used to
Friends and loved ones can prompt him to action, he may attempt to go through the motions of caring about them or even try to fake having emotions, but it's obviously an act unless he's already some kind of master manipulator
Complain once in a while (not too often) about how he doesn't feel anything anymore
Occasionally does vaguely destructive things like hurting himself, exposing himself to danger, or destroying things to see if it will make him feel an emotion (spoiler: it won't)
Alignment (if you have one) switches to Unaligned until you get a soul back.
Maybe a visual effect like looking pale and not having color in his eyes. The eyes may turn entirely black or pale-grey, for example.

Jay R
2016-06-09, 03:23 PM
Properly, a soulless body is a corpse. If you don't want to use that, make up something.

OldTrees1
2016-06-09, 03:28 PM
Since he doesn't have a soul, some may not consider him worthy of moral consideration or might classify him as object for legal purposes. Of course his allies would object to such treatment.


I recommend you and the player decide on 3 cravings the soulless body has. You decide when a craving strikes. Each craving gives a bonus for the first hour of the craving and the first hour after satisfying the craving. However after the first hour the craving becomes a penalty if not satiated (penalty can escalate per day unsated or something). By choosing 3 cravings you have 3 bonuses/penalties that can be in affect. Feel free to adjust the times.

Slipperychicken
2016-06-09, 03:38 PM
Since he doesn't have a soul, some may not consider him worthy of moral consideration or might classify him as object for legal purposes. Of course his allies would object to such treatment.

I'm not sure if that would even come up unless he was advertising it to public officials.

Besides, legislators would have to guarantee personhood for people without souls. Otherwise, every politician, salesman, and lawyer in the whole realm would be on their case!

Knaight
2016-06-09, 03:46 PM
I'd be inclined to just go with the absence of an afterlife option, for a number of reasons. Take the matter of immunity to fear - even a lot of sources that postulate souls say that animals don't have them, but there are plenty of pretty dumb animals which still exhibit fear. Even more exhibit self preservation instincts, and fear is essentially one of those that requires a certain mental sophistication. The same thing applies to a lot of personality traits.

OldTrees1
2016-06-09, 03:58 PM
I'm not sure if that would even come up unless he was advertising it to public officials.

Besides, legislators would have to guarantee personhood for people without souls. Otherwise, every politician, salesman, and lawyer in the whole realm would be on their case!

Well the moral personhood issue usually comes up with others seeing his suffering as morally insignificant: "The zombie unsettled my stomach, so my attempt as disposal was justified" or "It is not like it can truly suffer, there was nothing wrong with my using it as a prop in Torture 101"

The legal personhood issue would come up if someone wanted to exploit him being even less protected by law than non citizens would be: "I protest. Not only was my treatment of it not illegal, but allowing it to sue me is a farcical as allowing a hammer to sue the carpenter". However you do make a good point that legal personhood is probably defined by the soulless. Perhaps that means even more rights for the soulless :smallwink:?

icefractal
2016-06-09, 06:23 PM
I'd also like something i, as the dm, can enforce.

Anything you can suggest here, in the sense of how he is affected by the world, or how other people might react to him?Something that seemed interesting - what if he has no alignment now? Not even neutral, just - nothing. No alignment-based effect will detect him or have an effect on him, and nothing he does will change his non-existent alignment. RP-wise, he's not going to automatically go evil, it's just that he won't feel any guilt/regret if he does do evil things.

For the "severing from the divine" effect, immunity to divine magic seems too strong, but what about:
* Immune to turning, despite being undead.
* Never counts as "willing" for divine spells, and must always make a save against them, even beneficial ones. This wouldn't affect his own spells, but it would affect those of his allies.

The immune to fear / no morale bonuses thing mentioned would already be the case from being undead.

If you want something fairly extreme, you could say he's not undead now - he's a construct. Constructs can be made of meat (Flesh Golem), so it's not impossible. It could be harsh if people don't have construct-healing spells though; maybe give him a method of self-healing in that case.

Most people wouldn't notice, or at most they'd have an unexplainable feeling that something was strange about him. Being that deal with souls (demons, angels, etc) would notice, but I don't think they'd freak out; there are already some soulless creatures out there. They might snub him though, considering him no more than a construct/fake.

I wouldn't go too far with the "emotionless" thing - it may make the character less fun to play, and it's not a necessary result of being soulless.

Max_Killjoy
2016-06-09, 06:31 PM
Hi,

one character in my session died long ago, and was raised as an undead. Now he was given life again by a god, but he's at risk of losing it again soon, again turning into an undead.
If he does, i want it to be different this time.
I was considering that he should become a souless, having sold his soul many times, on this new death his soul will be lost and he will exist without one.

However, i don't really have a clue how he (and i) should roleplay that convincingly.
What does being without a soul mean?

I was thinking maybe most creatures, especially extraplanar ones, would behave differently around him. Maybe they can't perceive him at all, or just as a ghost. Or something like that.

Can you guys think of something else?


What is a "soul" in the setting for this game?

Is the persona -- the person's mind and personality -- a function of their soul, a function of their body, or a third and independent thing, its own function? Or perhaps all three, with emotions tied to the soul, base instincts tied to the body, and rational pure thought existing as "the mind"?

Or maybe in Freudian terms (ugh, I'm sorry), he loses his "superego", and becomes driven purely by ego and id. That is, he has no "moral restraint", he just acts on desires and logic.

Madeiner
2016-06-09, 08:19 PM
Thanks again everyone


What is a "soul" in the setting for this game?

Is the persona -- the person's mind and personality -- a function of their soul, a function of their body, or a third and independent thing, its own function? Or perhaps all three, with emotions tied to the soul, base instincts tied to the body, and rational pure thought existing as "the mind"?

Or maybe in Freudian terms (ugh, I'm sorry), he loses his "superego", and becomes driven purely by ego and id. That is, he has no "moral restraint", he just acts on desires and logic.

We are using a custom world where the planet is a living thing (Gaia theory) heavily inspired by final fantasy (7).
All souls (should) go back to the planet when the body dies, and provide sustenance for new, improved life by building on the experiences of old life.
A soul is basically what you are. Everything has one. Animals, living constructs, some inanimate objects.

Souls are pretty much a staple of the campaign. The PCs had to find a solution against dark, undead souls corrupting the planet when they destroyed an undead army. They had to make sure they died on another plane of existance. Planetary religion was against resurrecting, as it removed energy from the planet itself.

We are running a very dark, grim campaign. I i want the soulless thing to be dark, disturbing, inescapable.
I want to emphasize how a terrible thing being without a soul is. And that's because it's the other players that will have to decide whether to strip the a friend's soul, or allow for heaven to be invaded by demons for breaking an ancient law. Whatever they choose, it should be terrible.

I don't want to force being emotionless on the character; he might not like roleplay that, so i'm just hinting.
Also, i'm not sure i trust his ability to portray a soullless character. That's why i want external things to happen.

One thing i'd do is saying that whatever he does, he will gradually fade and disappear, possibly "shutting off" as if the body was slowly losing energy, with no possible afterlife. Not a big deal, the campaign is over in a couple months (after 9 years or so). He'll just disappear during the ending credits.

Millstone85
2016-06-10, 04:18 AM
Another thing you can do is have him meet himself, PC soulless body versus NPC bodiless soul.
They would share the same memories up to the moment the soul was reaped from the body.
The soul would consider himself to be the real person and lament the body's actions in his name.
But maybe the soul has changed more, now one of those dark, undead souls corrupting the planet.

SuchADiceGuy
2016-06-10, 09:58 AM
Hi,

one character in my session died long ago, and was raised as an undead. Now he was given life again by a god, but he's at risk of losing it again soon, again turning into an undead.
If he does, i want it to be different this time.
I was considering that he should become a souless, having sold his soul many times, on this new death his soul will be lost and he will exist without one.

However, i don't really have a clue how he (and i) should roleplay that convincingly.
What does being without a soul mean?

I was thinking maybe most creatures, especially extraplanar ones, would behave differently around him. Maybe they can't perceive him at all, or just as a ghost. Or something like that.

Can you guys think of something else?

How would he lose his soul? Would the god just take it away?

I think if the god did, then they'd just use the character's body to their own ends. If the PC's soul belongs to some war god like Mars, he'll probably just start running around killing everyone in sight. Or maybe if his soul belongs to a healing god, he'll just go around being a wandering doctor. Or rather, instead of a vague mission, they might be tasked with doing something specific--like "stop this evil sorcerer!"

He wouldn't have to be a totally disinterested husk, though. He might still have his own goals, memories, and ideas, it's just that he's compelled to fulfill his god's mission or be extinguished for all eternity.

Also, the god would have the power to cause his existence to cease, so the PC would always have that threat looming over him. Perhaps that would affect his psychology--if the character was previously confident and leaderlike, he'd have to have an attitude adjustment.

One last thing--if the character died, without completing the mission that the god told him to, then the god should have the power to revive him if they so choose. Depending on the god, though, their body might not heal. Since he'd be a sentient walking corpse, his body would begin to rot until he was nothing more than a skeleton. He'd be completely unable to speak (since his vocal cords have rotted away), and would likely have to find some way to restore his sight and ears (since his ears and eyes would have rotted away).

I hope this helps.

BWR
2016-06-10, 11:49 AM
Be a classic mindless zombie?

I think the first order of business is to talk to your DM and find out exactly what a 'soul' is and what it does. If the soul is your memory and vital force, then you will have an undead husk since your soul is elsewhere. If it is a sort of ownership certificate of said things you should be able to act as normal.

Xuc Xac
2016-06-10, 12:15 PM
Why would a soulless person act any differently than a person with a soul? What does the soul actually do? Maybe it's just a useless vestigial thing like your appendix or tailbone.

JeenLeen
2016-06-10, 12:29 PM
Two ideas from TV:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: vampires (except for two due to the plot) don't have souls, but do have personalities, emotions, etc.. The main impact of having a soul is having a conscience. Also, maybe the ability to feel sincere love, but I'm not sure if that requires a soul.

Simpsons: no soul = breathe does not fog things up.


Thanks again everyone

We are using a custom world where the planet is a living thing (Gaia theory) heavily inspired by final fantasy (7).
All souls (should) go back to the planet when the body dies, and provide sustenance for new, improved life by building on the experiences of old life.
A soul is basically what you are. Everything has one. Animals, living constructs, some inanimate objects.

Souls are pretty much a staple of the campaign. The PCs had to find a solution against dark, undead souls corrupting the planet when they destroyed an undead army. They had to make sure they died on another plane of existance. Planetary religion was against resurrecting, as it removed energy from the planet itself.

We are running a very dark, grim campaign. I i want the soulless thing to be dark, disturbing, inescapable.
I want to emphasize how a terrible thing being without a soul is. And that's because it's the other players that will have to decide whether to strip the a friend's soul, or allow for heaven to be invaded by demons for breaking an ancient law. Whatever they choose, it should be terrible.

I don't want to force being emotionless on the character; he might not like roleplay that, so i'm just hinting.
Also, i'm not sure i trust his ability to portray a soullless character. That's why i want external things to happen.

One thing i'd do is saying that whatever he does, he will gradually fade and disappear, possibly "shutting off" as if the body was slowly losing energy, with no possible afterlife. Not a big deal, the campaign is over in a couple months (after 9 years or so). He'll just disappear during the ending credits.

You are a being cut off from the lifestream and Gaia. I could see that meaning that magic interacts oddly with you if at all. At least, maybe it can't impact you directly. A fireball still burns since it is fire that is created and hurled at you, but magic that directly impacts you doesn't work since 'you' do not exist, metaphysically speaking.

As a positive, your actions cannot interact with Gaia, so you in theory could do things that would make you a contaminant after-death with no negative impact for Gaia. Maybe some way you could contain the corrupt souls?

But, to how being soul-less should be in your campaign: I reckon each lifeform interacts with Gaia in subtle ways. You don't. So, there is a disconnect, and it makes sense (as you suggest) that you would slowly decay or fade away. Probably some angst, nihilism, or regret there, but shadowed by paled emotions.

I think having some emotions would help what you are going for, so that your character can emotionally care about what's happening to him. Or, maybe there are no emotions, but an intellectual understanding of what emotions he would generally react with. There's a pause or a disconnect as you choose your choices based on what you think you should feel.

To add some real negativity to being soulless, maybe this hurts your relationships with others, as you no longer have the subtle flow of life energy between you. Trust erodes or is forgotten, new memories and connections don't really last, and your present is offputting to others. Not actively so, but due to an absence they are use to when interacting with anyone else.

illyahr
2016-06-10, 02:01 PM
Read up on the Promethean: the Created series in the World of Darkness games by Whitewolf. Prometheans were created by man and don't have souls. This gives them power based on how they were created (Frankenstein's monster, the Hebrew golem, the story of Osiris, etc.) but nature itself finds them repugnant. Plants die off if they stay in one place too long, people can't stand to be around them, animals run from them. It's nothing the conscious mind recognizes, there is just something inherently wrong with this person that just can't be identified.

To reflect this, you could have a cumulative penalty to social checks the longer they are around someone. The party knows what they are so they understand where the feeling is coming from, but no animal will willingly come close to them and no other person will deal with them for more than a few minutes at a time.

tomandtish
2016-06-10, 02:56 PM
Are you familiar with the show Supernatural? They played around with that concept in one of the early seasons. (One of the two main characters had died, but returned back without a soul). They tried to play it out as kind of a Sociopath/Nihilist Plus thing, where he basically lost all feelings of love and attachment to anyone or anything.

Season 6. He's able to fake it for a while, but the lack of empathy for others begins to show after a while, coming to a head when ...

He allows his own brother to be turned by a vampire so they can track it to it's lair.

You can watch it on Netflix if interested.

Madeiner
2016-06-11, 10:12 AM
You are a being cut off from the lifestream and Gaia. I could see that meaning that magic interacts oddly with you if at all. At least, maybe it can't impact you directly. A fireball still burns since it is fire that is created and hurled at you, but magic that directly impacts you doesn't work since 'you' do not exist, metaphysically speaking.

As a positive, your actions cannot interact with Gaia, so you in theory could do things that would make you a contaminant after-death with no negative impact for Gaia. Maybe some way you could contain the corrupt souls?

But, to how being soul-less should be in your campaign: I reckon each lifeform interacts with Gaia in subtle ways. You don't. So, there is a disconnect, and it makes sense (as you suggest) that you would slowly decay or fade away. Probably some angst, nihilism, or regret there, but shadowed by paled emotions.

I think having some emotions would help what you are going for, so that your character can emotionally care about what's happening to him. Or, maybe there are no emotions, but an intellectual understanding of what emotions he would generally react with. There's a pause or a disconnect as you choose your choices based on what you think you should feel.

To add some real negativity to being soulless, maybe this hurts your relationships with others, as you no longer have the subtle flow of life energy between you. Trust erodes or is forgotten, new memories and connections don't really last, and your present is offputting to others. Not actively so, but due to an absence they are use to when interacting with anyone else.

Wow, all this is really inspiring and exactly what i was looking for :)
Thank you! I will definately use this :)

I also like the possibility of redeption, being able to contain corrupt souls somehow, and maybe save the day at the end with that ability.

Temperjoke
2016-06-13, 11:41 AM
You know, another additional negative could be that you feel at a distance from everything, so all the things he enjoyed before just doesn't feel like it used to. So, if the character had any romances, the spark has left, but not the memory of how he felt. The excitement of victory, the joy of being rewarded, he remembers it, but can't feel it anymore. Food and drink affect him, but he just does it for the biological necessity, not because he enjoys what he's eating/drinking. All of this sort of thing would get mentally depressing very quickly as well as creating a distance from other people.